We try to run from it, but there’s no escape…
Have you ever fallen in love and almost immediately found yourself so banged up — for the ten millionth time — that you are certain you’re never going to be able to go there again? No more taking chances on love. No more sex. (Well, maybe casual only. Mmmm…no, maybe none at all. Even casual sex is a little too close for comfort.)
But, really. That’s it. You can’t come back from this latest heartbreak. You’re done.
Who am I kidding, asking you that? I already know the answer. Of course you’ve experienced that. We all have.
I think I’ve said it at least 6,435 times in the past few months. I’ve been shocked how “off relationships” I’ve been. I haven’t been able to imagine opening my heart to love again — especially with a man. And the idea of seeing a dick come at me in the bedroom? Ummm, no thanks. I have my reasons. It’s personal. But yeah, I’ve been overwhelmed with the thought that seeing a man naked again would make me feel so vulnerable and afraid that I’d have to flee the scene.
Of course, there’s a part of me that laughs at this. Am I really swearing off romance? Men? Sex? I mean…it’s me we’re talking about. Like I’m actually going to give up dick. (Ha!)
Or, more importantly, love.
But it’s true I haven’t been interested. I have felt dead inside. I’ve wondered if I’ll ever feel that kind of desire or affection again.
You see, I don’t want to get my heart broken again. I don’t think it could survive another shattering.
But as the seasons of this particular heartbreak turn on the wheel of time, I’ve been realizing that I think I’ve gotten it wrong all this time.
The heart is supposed to break.
Irecently had a conversation with a friend who told me I shouldn’t be afraid to get my heart broken in the future.
“You’ll get over it,” she said, in her typical matter-of-fact way. “That’s what we do. Don’t let the fear of heartbreak take away your ability to experience joy and connection.”
You’ll get over it. It’s such a simple but profound truth about the human heart. It will heal. Over and over and over again.
It made me think of how ridiculous I’ve been to shore myself up these past few months. To swear off dating. Women. Sex. Did I really think that was going to spare me from further pain? That I was going to be able to get through the rest of my life without another heartbreak?
It’s impossible. And thank god for that.
Are we supposed to “be adults” and carefully guard our feelings, our hearts? Are we supposed to do a risk assessment before getting in too deeply with a potential romantic partner? After all, there are bills to pay, work to do, kids to raise. Who has time to lie in bed and cry if things end?
That was something I struggled with after my last breakup. I worried I had been foolish. Childish. I write about sex and love, for god’s sake. I cannot afford to mess up in those arenas. If I find myself in heartbreak-induced depression, unable to tackle those subjects on the page, how on earth will I be able to earn money? To pay my mortgage? To put food on my table?
I should’ve been more careful, I thought. Taken less chances. Gotten to know him better. Maybe not stripped off my clothes and tumbled onto the bed within twenty minutes of picking him up from the airport. Wouldn’t that have saved me from enduring a summer filled with tears and writer’s block?
But maybe I’ve been unfair to myself. What would I have gained from rejecting that opportunity? From guarding my heart?
Does it matter that I would’ve cried less? That I (maybe) would have had fewer depressive episodes? Would it have helped to have not felt the despair of not knowing and then the despair of knowing? To have avoided the transformation of my elation and desire into pain and loneliness?
I have often lamented to friends that the sex wasn’t worth it. I mean no offense by that — it was very satisfying, don’t get me wrong. But were a handful of orgasms that eased my heart a little more widely open with each shudder worth finding out that that heart had no value to that person? No.
But what about the experience, as a whole? Wasn’t it lovely to fall in love for the first time since my last big relationship? Wasn’t it magical to discover that resilience and hope in my heart? Wasn’t it fun to have those first couple of months in which we talked and laughed and let that energy build, anticipating all we would do together over the coming months?
And does it have to be “worth it?” Do I have to measure the way it began by the way it ended?
Maybe I can simply call it a victory that I was able to fall in love, at all. That I was brave enough to risk heartbreak after the doozy of the one before.
Maybe that’s the most grown-up thing I could have done. The most responsible thing: to fall in love.
There seems to be a popular sentiment among the friends in my circle, something that we all talk about a lot. The only guarantee in any relationship is that there will be a beginning and there will be an end. Even if it’s a “forever” relationship between siblings or a parent and child. Even if it’s a marriage that doesn’t end in divorce. We’ll all die, eventually. So yes, every relationship will end.
And every single ending will hurt. No matter how amicable. No matter how gentle. It will hurt.
As my parents age, I find myself afraid every single day of what it will feel like to lose them. What will the world be like without the sound of my mother’s laugh? It is unfathomable to me.
As the valve in my nephew Alex’s heart continues to slowly close and his surgery edges closer and closer, I have to decide every day not to think about it. We will, indeed, have a goodbye someday, but I need it to be a long time from now, after I have loved him through his long life to a moment in our future when he can sit by “Auntie Granny’s” bed and see me off to my next journey.
And as I get closer and closer to my dearest friends, I know that someday, some of us will drift apart. Things will happen. Arguments will occur. Lives will diverge.
None of this has stopped me from choosing love with every one of them. Not even Alex, not even after several family members deliberately chose not to visit with him during his infancy…just in case. I, instead, went all in, determined that my love would keep him alive until the doctors can step in when he is three or four. And I have gone all in with my parents and my friends and everyone else I love.
So why are we so guarded with romantic love? Why are we so quick to opt out after a few heartbreaks? There’s no difference here. Love is love.
If we keep choosing to love our friends and family members, shouldn’t we be just as willing when a new lover comes knocking on our door?
We can only open the door a crack, if we choose. We can ask a lot of questions and take a long time considering whether or not to invite someone in. We can slam the door in their face.
But, really — no, really — it’s going to hurt no matter how careful we are.
So maybe there’s no point in doing anything but swinging that door wide open and saying, “Come on in.”
Abroken heart is fulfilling the heart’s function. If they didn’t break, what would love feel like? How would we know its depth, its force, its fullness? What would the sweetness matter if there was no bitter to follow?
A broken heart is a building site where existing structures are being edified and new ones are being constructed.
A broken heart is empty space, possibility, edges to grow into.
A broken heart is one stop on a cycle that we’ll pass through again and again and again.
A broken heart is our destiny. It’s not a risk we take, not dice we roll — it is inevitable.
I’m starting to understand this now. And I’ve been practicing running toward a broken heart for a very long time. With my parents. With my friends. With my darling nephew.
I want to show the same courage in romantic relationships. I want to run right into ruin with my arms wide open.
This is what my heart was made for.
Dedicated to my friend, Ann Treboux And anyone who inspires me to face my fears of another broken heart.